The German view of the Hannover Fair 2014?

It does appear that the German organizers of the Hannover Fair 2014 and the German editors attending their press conference in advance of the event early in April have not quite understood the basic idea of hosting the “World’s leading trade fair” and thereby encouraging the overseas visitors to attend, and adopt German ideas into their factories. At least the press conference presentations, and then the questions, were dubbed into English for overseas on-line viewers: I have to admit to relying on the accuracy of this translation, which may explain some of the more extreme statements!

Dr Jochen Köckler, a Board member of Deutsche Messe, the organizers, gave the main presentation. The theme of the event this year is “Integrated Industry – Next Steps”, which shows the progress from last year’s motto, “Integrated Industry”. Dr Köckler was positive about the prospects for the coming year, with energy resources and re-industrialization progressing in all economies. He characterized the USA as benefiting from fracking, giving cheaper energy, and the possible result being re-shoring of production, with advanced manufacturing, making a very important market. China has moved into nuclear technology, and with the current increases in wages is seeking automation and high-tech opportunities – China was the Deutsche Messe partner in 2012. In Germany, there has been an energy turnaround, moving to a combination of renewables and conventional power sources. This is in line with the EU Commission requirement for 27% of power being from renewables by 2030. The Association of German Engineering Companies predict a growth in their output of +3% by value in the current year, after a very difficult time in the last two years. This is not necessarily the same as seen by the automation companies, regularly reported on by the INSIDER.

The four main exhibition areas in the 2014 show, which is forecast to exceed the 4872 stands seen at the 2013 show, will be Industrial Automation and IT; Energy and Environmental Technology; Industrial Supply; and Research & Technology. An entire Hall, #17, will be devoted to robots and the automated factory.

Partnered with the Netherlands

The Netherlands are the chosen partner country for the Hannover Fair this year, and so Monique van Daalen, the Ambassador from the Netherlands to Germany, explained that they represent the most important trade partner to Germany, in both directions. The Netherlands has many niche industry specialist suppliers used by German factories, and is a prime source of innovation in energy technology, such as renewable wind power. Van Daalen also reminded us that The Netherlands invented the microscope in the 16th Century. This year there would be 200 Dutch stands attending, compared to 120 last year: but there is certain to be a lot more orange evident in the banners at this year’s event.

Industry 4.0 and the SmartFactory

Prof Detlef Zühlke of the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence, and also Chairman of the Executive board of the SmartFactory KLeV, to be on display in Hall 8 at the Hannover Fair, explained that his project started some time ago (quoted as in 2005), but that as with any other major development, market pull was needed to get the idea implemented in practice. He explained the background thinking to “Industry 4.0”, which was interesting, in the way it was expressed:

Industry 1.0 was the harnessing of steam power in 1783

Industry 2.0 was the conveyor belt, as introduced by Henry Ford in 1913

Industry 3.0 was electric automation dating from 1954

Industry 4.0 is IT and the Internet of Things [presumably dated sometime between 2005 and 2014!]

Prof Zühlke also explained the time development profile of new technologies, looking like a tidal wave, the sharp rise at the leading edge being the rise to the ‘peak of inflated expectations’, and the trough behind that peak being the ‘trough of disillusionment’. At the moment the Industry 4.0 is on the steep slope up to the peak of inflated expectations. One aspect of the technology that he identified as a major priority for current work was the topic of ‘location awareness of mobile devices’, but there was no comment about any such topics known as to be shown at the 2014 Fair.

Questions from the German Editors

The first question seemed fairly pointed: it asked why Dr Köckler had even bothered to mention nuclear energy, when the German people and the Government had decided to drop all nuclear activity. He responded that ‘the industry needs to offer the technology to the people who wanted to still be involved with it’, that the German ‘policy does not stop us showing this technology’ [at the Fair]. A pragmatic business approach that seems not to have been appreciated by the press.

In the second question the editor asked why Dr Köckler had not mentioned 3D printers, when last year the show made a feature of them. The response was that they were still there, still would be on show. Full stop.

Then another German Editor asked about the interest level in Industry 4.0. The response was that Germany invented Industry 4.0, so “we should implement it!” The follow up sentence explained that the threat was that the USA was waking up, with the implication that if Germany did not implement the ideas then the USA would do it first. This rumbled on with a comment that obviously implied the UK was not a threat in terms of moving forward with these ideas, because “The UK is closed-down”. So obviously the opinion would seem to be that there is not much point in attracting UK visitors to the Hannover Fair!

Finally a sensible question came from an Intech Editor, asking about cyber security with Industry 4.0. Prof Zühlke said this was a very important question, and there is a need for answers: ‘We have to create trust’.

Before that trust there needs to be confidence in our colleagues across the industry…. But the Hannover Fair is one of the world’s leading trade fairs, still.

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